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Woodford Reserve Straight Malt Whiskey

Posted on by Eric Burke

I'm going to say that it was my first serious taste of whiskey that was the last time I truly liked a malt whiskey. In that case, I think that for me, liking that taste was more about enjoying the switch in flavor from clear spirits to aged ones than it was anything about the Malt Whiskey itself. Shortly afterward, I made the switch to Bourbon and Rye and have seldom looked back.

That should tell you something about my tastes. I used to say that it wasn't that I didn't like Malt Whiskey, it was just that I hadn't yet found one that I liked. But now, it's been enough time and I've tried enough that I'm willing to admit to the fact that I generally do not like Malt Whiskey. And that's ok. We all like different things. 

Not caring for Malt whiskey is one of the reasons that it appears on the site so infrequently. I have to really be interested in something about one to spend the money on one. Sometimes, as in the case of Stranahan's, I'm in the distillery and pick one up because the tasting went well. Other times, it is because of a cask finish that I found interesting. One I tried because it was made by a well-known large bourbon producer and I wanted to taste their version. 

That last one made me quite happy that my friend had spent the money on it and not me. I disliked it so much that in 2016 I named it one of the five worst American Whiskeys I'd ever had. That one was the Woodford Reserve Master's Collection: Double Malt Selection. It resulted in both my friend and I taking our drams and dumping them down the sink.

So, it was with some trepidation that I bought the recently released
Woodford Reserve Straight Malt Whiskey. After all of that, why did I buy it? Well, it's new, I figured that they may have had time to perfect their recipe, and I liked the rest of the non-experimental whiskeys under the Woodford name (Bourbon, Double Oaked, and Rye).

So what does this bourbon drinker and admitted Malt disliker think of it? Let's find out.

Woodford Reserve Straight Malt Whiskey

Purchase Info: $26.98 for a 750 mL bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN

Details: 45.2% ABV. 51% Malt mashbill (via the brand website).

Nose: Nutty with caramel/vanilla and uncooked oatmeal.

Mouth: Sweetened, cooked cereal with nuts and a hint of dark chocolate. 

Finish: Warm and of medium length. Chocolate and dried grains that show as slightly bitter and a touch medicinal. Almost grassy after a while. 

 IMAGE: A hand-drawn neutral face

Thoughts: You know what? I do not dislike this. I wasn't a fan while doing the tasting. But after giving it a couple more tries and some time, I'm ok with this one. Don't get me wrong, it's not something I'm likely to ever buy again, but I'm not going to dump the bottle or relegate it to prop whiskey either. So I didn't like it, I didn't dislike it, that sounds like the very definition of Meh to me. 

But maybe take that with a grain of salt and give it a shot yourself, as I'm not generally a fan of Malt whiskey, I may have ranked it lower (or higher) than you would. 


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Bottom-Shelf Brackets 2018: Other people's brackets

Posted on by Eric Burke

So one of the things I did this year to shake things up was to introduce more judges to this project. In the past, it has been just my wife and I and if we disagreed, I'd overrule her due to the fact that I do all the writing. Now I was not able to get everyone together in time to get started on these so I was unable to use their input in the initial rounds. 

And now that I think about that, I think this is a good thing. This is a blog that is run by my wife and I and it reflects our palates. Plus, as you will see, everyone so far has chosen a different winner. But, there are a few commonalities in the results that I think you will find interesting. So let's begin.

This is the bracket of my friend Dave. He was the inspiration for this experiment because he asked if he could be a part of it. He knows almost nothing about whiskey that I haven't taught him but he is an enthusiastic amateur. I did the pouring for Dave's bracket. So one interesting thing that I think you will see is that Old Overholt was Dave's winner. I've described Old Overholt as one of the gentlest rye whiskeys that I'd found. And I think that it makes sense that an inexperienced whiskey drinker would like a whiskey that wasn't overly hot and aggressive. In fact, you'll notice that most of the whiskeys that made it to his last four were fairly nonaggressive whiskeys. A corn whiskey beat a rye, a low proof beat a high proof on a couple of occasions, and then there is Old Forester where he had a hard time choosing between the two.

This is the bracket of one of my dog sitting clients, Jeff. Jeff is a guy who likes whiskey but mostly sticks to the brands he knows. Jeff administered his own test which is why everything is labeled with a letter instead of a name, all the seeds are in the same location though. In this case, Old Grand-Dad beat Old Overholt, Two Stars beat Hirsch Corn, Ezra Brooks Rye beat Mellow Corn and Old Forester beat Four Roses. I haven't finished my bracket yet, but so far mine matches this one. And if you were to ask me how I thought my bracket might finish out, I can see similarities between his and mine. I'm a bit shocked that Two Stars beat out Old Grand-Dad, but hey Barton/Sazerac makes some pretty good juice. Oh, and for Jeff, Old Forester won. 

This is my wife's bracket. She and I disagreed on whether Mellow Corn should beat Ezra Brooks Rye so I had her finish her bracket based on her scenario. Once again I administered the contest for her. As you will see, there are some similarities between the previous three, Everyone likes Two Stars more than the Hirsch Corn whiskey and Everyone liked Old Forester better than Four Roses. In fact, Old Forester was in the championship for every one of these three. It sort of makes me wonder if my bracket will follow suit? I guess we will see next Tuesday.

Now, this last one is from Pat, one of my wife's coworkers. Pat also administered his own test. And Pat went a different way than anyone else. Unbeknownst to Pat, he seems to be a fan of rye whiskey. And he found this fascinating since he hadn't had very much rye before. From what I understand, he is going to be remedying that in the future. Even so, I can see the Ezra Brooks Rye winning this. It is a good and flavorful whiskey that even at two years old, brings a lot of flavor to the party. 

So I hope you found this as fascinating as I did. I liked seeing the trends among people. All of us liked Old Forester over Four Roses, which I didn't expect from me much less anyone else. It was split evenly between those who preferred Mellow Corn and those who preferred Ezra Brooks Rye. Only one person thought that the Hirsch Corn was better than Two Stars. And yet even with that, they all chose a different winner. I'm very curious now to know which one will win on my bracket. 


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Bottom-Shelf Brackets 2018: Round 1c: Ezra Brooks Rye vs. Mellow Corn

Posted on by Eric Burke

Round 1c of the 2018 BourbonGuy.com Bottom Shelf Brackets features number 1 seed Mellow Corn Bottled in Bond Corn Whiskey versus Number 4 seed Ezra Brooks Rye. 

Mellow Corn is a product of Heaven Hill Brands. It is a bottled-in-bond product, meaning it is the product of one distilling season, bottled at exactly 100 proof and was aged for at least 4 years. As this is corn whiskey, it is made from at least 80 percent corn in the mash recipe and was aged in either uncharred or used barrels. It is a number one seed due to its high proof.

Ezra Brooks Rye is a product of Luxco. It is a sourced whiskey that is assumed to have been distilled at the MGPi distillery in Indiana. It is a two-year-old rye. It is the youngest whiskey in the contest and as such is a number four seed. 

These were tasted blind in the following order. My thoughts on each are from before the reveal.

Mellow Corn

Purchase Info: $11.88 for a 1L bottle at Blue Max Liquor, Burnsville, MN

Details: 50% ABV, non-age stated.

Produced by: Heaven Hill Brands

Nose: Buttery popcorn, spearmint, a touch of cinnamon, and after a while strawberry oatmeal. 

Mouth: Warm and spicy. Cinnamon and honey. 

Finish: Medium and warm. Lingering dried grain notes. A touch of bitterness. 

Pre-Reveal Thoughts: Nice and warm. Good spice. Only slight knock on it is a slightly dried grain note on the finish that doesn't agree with me.

Ezra Brooks Rye

Purchase Info: $17.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Eagan, MN.

Details: 45% ABV.

Produced by: Luxco (Assumed MGPi)

Nose: Strong mint and ginger ale. 

Mouth: Thinner in the mouth than the last one. Mint and ginger spice.

Finish: Flavorful finish. A "Blossom" of flavor after swallowing. Mint, cinnamon, and ginger. 

Pre-Reveal Thoughts: Just the opposite of the last one. This has a pretty mild mouth, but a fun finish. 

Who wins?

So, Mellow Corn is sweet baked good on the nose while Ezra Brooks Rye is a spicy soda. This is a draw on the nose. Mellow Corn has a nicer mouthfeel while Ezra Brooks Rye has a more pleasantly flavorful finish. This is the hardest matchup in the contest. These are both good and to be honest my wife and I both chose a different winner. After sitting on this for most of a week I have to declare a winner based soley on the finish. Winner: Ezra Brooks Rye.


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Bottom-Shelf Brackets 2018: Round 1b: Hirsch Selection Straight Corn vs. Two Stars

Posted on by Eric Burke

Round 1b of the 2018 BourbonGuy.com Bottom Shelf Brackets features number 2 seed Hirsch Selection Kentucky Straight Corn Whiskey versus Number 3 seed Two Stars Bourbon. 

Hirsch Selection Kentucky Straight Corn Whiskey is a Limited Edition straight corn whiskey. But wait? Why would a Limited Edition be in the Bottom Shelf Brackets? Well, mostly because the price was right. I found it on a shelf in Minneapolis for $16.99. I haven't seen it anywhere else, so I'm going to guess this is an inexpensive shelf turd from a few years ago. So, now you know. This has no age statement so it is at least 4 years old. It states it was aged in used barrels. 

Two Stars bourbon is a Total Wine exclusive bourbon produced by the Clear Springs Distilling Co. Clear Springs is a dba used by Sazerac when they produce house brands for stores. Last I heard (2016) this one was a product of the Barton distillery, though it is possible that has changed by this point.

These were tasted blind in the following order. My thoughts on each are from before the reveal.

Hirsch Selection: Kentucky Straight Corn Whiskey

Purchase Info: $16.99 for a 750mL bottle at Surdyk's Liquor and Cheese Shop, Minneapolis, MN

Details: 45% ABV, non-age stated.

Produced by: Preiss Imports

Nose: Delicate. Almost a white wine note and brown sugar. After sitting a bit a vinegar note flashes across the nose before disappearing again 

Mouth: Cooling and thin at first. As it sits in the mouth a sweet baking spice note develops. 

Finish: Starts almost nonexistent but a gentle burn develops after a little bit of time.

Pre-Reveal Thoughts: This could be a wonderful whiskey for a white wine drinker. I find it interesting, but not something I'd come back to.

Two Stars

Purchase Info: $17.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Eagan, MN.

Details: 43% ABV.

Produced by: Clear Springs Distilling Company (Sazerac)

Nose: Almond, brown sugar, nutmeg. 

Mouth: Gentle at first with more spice developing as it sits in the mouth. Almond and mint.

Finish: Warmer than the mouth. Lingering bitter almond, baking spice and mint.

Pre-Reveal Thoughts: This is more to my tastes than whiskey #1.

Who wins?

I'm not sure either of these would have won if they had drawn a different matchup. They are both pretty meh. They are strangely similar. Both of these start very much the same, they are both gentle and both take time to develop in the mouth. But at the end the day, I like where Two Stars ends up better than Hirsch Corn. Winner: Two Stars.


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Basil Hayden's Dark Rye

Posted on by Eric Burke

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

This is my favorite holiday of the year. I love the spooky theme of all the decorations. I love jack-o-lanterns. I love seeing the little kids in their costumes. And, I love the candy. 

Way back in college, I used to love the parties and the costumes too. But these days, I'm more grown up. I sit at home, hand out candy to the few kids brave enough to head around the neighborhood and watch a spooky movie. 

You wouldn't think I would be as happy for Halloween to get here as I am. Ignoring the calendar, before Halloween, it's Autumn. And even though I hate winter, I love Autumn. I love the crisp mornings with the hint of a warm afternoon. I love the fact that, on occasion, I can still get away with shorts and a t-shirt while doing lawn work. The idea that even if you get snow, it probably won't last. But after Halloween, it's winter. November in Minnesota means you are more likely to need a snow shovel than you are shorts. 

But in spite of all of that. In spite of the fact that it'll feel more like winter tomorrow than it does today, I still love Halloween. It feels good to indulge my inner child for one night and eat pizza, candy and drink some beer.

All of which has nothing to do with tonight's whiskey, Basil Hayden's Dark Rye. Basil Hayden's Dark Rye is the latest in the line of Basil Hayden brand extensions. It is a blend of Straight Rye whiskey from Kentucky, Canadian Rye whisky from Alberta Distillers, and Port. If this tickles a memory for you, that is because Beam already has a similar product on the market in Alberta Rye Dark Batch. That is a blend of Canadian Rye, Bourbon and Sherry. So similar, but not exactly the same. I didn't care for the Dark Batch, let's see how Dark Rye fares.

Basil Hayden's Dark Rye

Purchase info: $44.99 for a 750 mL at Lakeville Liquors, Lakeville, MN

Details: 40% ABV. A blend of Kentucky straight rye, Alberta Distillers Canadian Rye, and Port.

Nose: Strong caramel notes lead off. Baking Spice, citrus, and ripe red fruits follow. 

Mouth: Caramel, lots of baking spice, and ripe red fruits.

Finish: Short, but sweet with jammy wine notes dominating. 

Thoughts: I'm going to do something I almost never do. This is getting two ratings from me. 

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Neat: I was ok with it up until the finish. I don't care for most fortified wines outside of a cocktail and the finish being very wine forward was a problem for me. That said, there is nothing wrong with this if you like that sort of thing. So this gets a dislike from me when tasted neat. 

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Cocktails: Night and day difference. Because of the fortified wine notes, we first used it in a Manhattan. My wife thought it was ok, but I thought it was a little too sweet. Then I tried swapping the Vermouth in the Manhattan for Amaro (Ramazzotti is my house amaro), and it was really quite good. It accentuated the baking spice notes which was quite tasty. So tasty that I've used most of the rest of the bottle in various cocktails. I've personally favored the ones that feature bitter notes to play off of the sweet fortified wine finish. So it gets a like from me for use in cocktails because this has been a go-to for as long as it has been here.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!